am in the sixth grade in a school for the gifted. English
is my second language. This book was easy for me to read
The story begins with a ten-year-old boy named Rankin sneaking
out to see the warship "Oneida" docked at Sackets Harbor.
The people in the village have been waiting for the ship to
come. It will be looking for men to join the crew.
When Rankin's pa gives his older son William permission to sign
on, Rankin wants to go too.
Will tells Rankin the only jobs for kids on a warship are for
powder monkeys. Powder monkeys are young boys who can run
fast up and down the ladders on the ship carrying gunpowder from
down in the hold to the cannons on deck. It's a dangerous
job because an enemy ship will try to kill the powder monkeys so
the guns can't be fired.
Rankin doesn't scare easily and he and his brother sign up
together. His first job on board in unpleasant, but he is
determined to do his best. Eventually the war begins and
he gets to carry the powder to the long gun, but not in the way
I spend my spare time playing games. After I started this
book, I wanted to read on instead of going back to my games.
Rankin and his big brother were brave characters. I hate
war so I liked the surprise way the battle ended. This was
a fun way to learn about the first battle in America's War of
By Van Tri Minh
5.0 out of 5 stars - A young boy's review from Asia, May 30,
(This review was first posted on Amazon Books.)
"The War of 1812 is not a
"major league" war in US military history. Compared to the
Civil War, the two World Wars, or the Korean/Viet Nam conflicts,
it does not loom large as far as duration or number of
casualties. In Hope Irvin Marston's recently published
book, Sackets Harbor Powder Monkey, this often-overlooked
war takes on a human dimension.
The central character is eleven-year-old Rankin McMullin, a far
cry from Andrew Jackson, the near-mythic hero of the War of
1812. The locale is the port town of Sackets Harbor, New
York, tucked away in the eastern end of Lake Ontario. The
strategic importance of this village is the presence of the US
brig, Oneida, which aims to disrupt the trade of potash
between the US and Canada.
Even though this trade is illegal, it is necessary for the
economic survival of the Sackets Harbor region. But
economics is the fartherest thing from young Rankin's mind.
His prime desire is to actually step on board the warship and
then, if by some miracle!, to become a member of the crew.
We sense the excitement as Rankin and his older brother are
introduced to the ship, experiencing the revulsion of cleaning
the bilges and learning what is involved in the duties of a
"powder monkey." After months of training and
familiarizing themselves with the workings of the ship, the
long-awaited crisis comes to a head--war breaks out between
Great Britain and the United States.
The reader then follows the first battle at Sackets Harbor, this
being the only book to deal with that one. (A second
battle was fought the next year at Sackets Harbor.)
Especially helpful is the inclusion of a list of obscure
nautical terms and their definitions.
Military history customarily looks at the "big picture," while
this work offers a more personal, localized picture of war.
To see warfare through the eyes of a pre-teen is an intriguing,
yet realistic, perspective. Although war has changed
considerably in the lasttwo hundred years, Ms. Marston's book
presents a vivid compelling portrayal."
Dr. John Byrd, Former Department Chair,
Seoul Foreign School
Seoul, South Korea
"What eleven-year-old boy
wouldn't love to live on a ship? Rankin McMullin gets the
chance of a lifetime in this children's book about a battle
during the War of 1812. Rankin's routine life in Sackets
Harbor becomes much more exciting when he and his brother are
recruited to become crewmates on the Oneida, a wind-powered
warship sailing Lake Ontario which defends the United States.
When British Canadian ships make a strike at Sackets Harbor and
the Oneida, Rankin, his brother, and the whole town pitch
in to repel the invaders. Marston's research is thorough
and the included index will add to any young person's
understanding of common ship terms and life aboard a sailing
"Anchors aweigh. Hope
Irvin Marston, the well-known author of more than thirty books
for children, has written a historical novel for middle school
students. Middle school is when kids study New York State
history, and Hope is a retired North Country middle-school
teacher and librarian. So she knows her stuff. From
its appealing front cover design to the illustrated warship
Oneida that sails across the back, this is a carefully
researched tale. Based on the little-known first battle of
Sackets Harbor, the book was written to coincide with that
battle's bicentennial. Young readers will identify with
11-year-old Rankin McMullin, who longs to take part in a real
fight. They will learn along with him about the workings
of early sailing vessels, back in the days when Rankin and
America's Navy were nearly equal in age. The persons and
events in the book are real, but invented dialogue has been
added to dramatize the action. The story is made more
true-to-life by the inclusion of early nineteenth century
nautical terms like "binnacle" and "carronade." A helpful
glossary is provided; as well as an Afterword; a hand-drawn,
commissioned map; a brief discussion of battle folklore; an
annotated bibliography; and suggestions for further reading.
The back matter is especially helpful and complete. This
book will appeal to Social Studies teachers, history and
genealogy buffs, battle re-enactors, and anyone who loves the
Sackets Harbor region."
Aline A. Newman
"Not only is this a must-read
for both kids and adults who love adventure stories, it is also
a fascinating peek at the opening battle of the War of 1812.
Told through the eyes of 11-year-old Rankin McMullin, a capable
boy from Sackets Harbor, NY, the reader is taken on board the
warship Oneida and experiences the day-to-day life of a
young powder monkey. Hope Irvin Marston is a master at
weaving historically accurate details into a gripping tale,
which makes this book perfect for classroom read-a-louds.
"Hope Marston brings a War of
1812 confrontation to life through the eyes of a boy with a
personal motive for resisting the British. The reader is
immersed in sights, sounds, and smells that confront a boy
learning to prepare for battle on a warship, and is shown how he
plays an important role in the fight. The book appears to
be based on well researched fact, and the bibliography and
glossary are informative resources. Don't be misled by the
cover illustration of the character, who is described in the
text as appearing "several years older" than twelve.
Frequent changes in point of view may cause some initial
"Very inspiring story for any
child, on accomplishing your dreams! Rankin is a very
brave and courageous young boy who accomplished his dream of
becoming a successful powder monkey on the Oneida
Warship. Teaches a child on being brave and going after
your dreams. In addition, this story would be great for
any military family. I loved the story!"
"Ms. Marston created a hit
once again with her book about the War of 1812. Sackets
Harbor Powder Monkey is interesting, provides accurate
information about Northern New York during this time in history
and holds ones attention throughout the book. This book is
appropriate reading for elementary students but is enjoyable for
almost anyone. The 200th anniversary of the War of 1812
provides good motivation to learn more about this historical
event. My husband and I both read this book and are now
passing it on to our grandchild."
"This book didn't feel like a
history lesson to me but I sure did learn a lot. The
author did a wonderful job of taking real life people and events
and incorporating them into an interesting tale. I live in
New York, and I didn't even know about this important battle in
Sackets Harbor. She related life on a warship from the
stinkin' bilges to the duties of many of the crew and that of a
powder monkey. Each member had undoubted patriotism and
extreme courage. I love that Hope saw a need out there and
she met it head on. There are not adequate children's
books covering this battle in a way that they can understand.
Hope has included a lot of extras in the afterward too,
including a glossary of words used. This book is ideal for
learning in a traditional or homeschooling environment and in my
opinion, it would be ideal for grades 2-6."
"Hope Marston writes with
precise attention to detail in everything from the ships,
sailors and carronades of the period to the families inhabiting
Sackets Harbor. It focuses on two youngsters who join up
to experience life on an American warship. Its detail is
comparable to Richard Henry Dana's "Two Years Before the Mast"
written a couple of decades after the War of 1812. "Powder
Monkey" is much shorter while obviously designed for a young
teenage readership, it is informative reading for adults of all
ages. All wars create bloodshed and loss of life, but the
author skillfully skirts that along with any debate on why this
useless war actually happened. The bottom line: A valuable
and deftly created insight, a window on America 200 years ago.
Congratulations Hope on your first self-published book. I
know you will have continued success with this book and all the
future stories you feel led to write."
"This book didn't feel
like a history lesson to me but I sure did learn a lot.
The author did a wonderful job of taking real life people and
events and incorporating them into an interesting tale. I
live in New York, and I didn't even know about this important
battle in Sackets Harbor. She related life on a warship
from the stinkin' bilges to the duties of many of the crew and
that of a powder monkey. Each member had undoubted
patriotism and extreme courage.
I love that Hope saw a need out there and she met it head on.
There are not adequate children's books covering this battle in
a way that they can understand. Hope has included a lot of
extras in the afterward too, including a glossary of words used.
This book is ideal for learning in a traditional or
homeschooling environment and in my opinion, it would be ideal
for grades 2-6.
Congratulations Hope on your first self published book. I
know you will have continued success with this book and all the
future stories you feel led to write."
Diane Estrella, wife, cool home-schooling mom, aspiring
children's writer, part-time blogger, (full-time social media
recreationalist) and semi-professional encourager. (
"War of 1812 stories like
this one bring history to life for today's readers.
Inspiring our youth through tales of grit and courage promotes
character building qualities needed in life's unpredictable
Constance B. Barone, Site Manager, Sackets Harbor Battlefield
State Historic Site
"This is excellent historical
fiction, based on fact. Readers of any age can enjoy it.
Ms. Marston has done her homework."
Gary M. Gibson, Ph.D., Naval Historian and Sackets Harbor